.Life Skills – Overview
“Welcome to our group! We’re meeting together in order to learn practices that will inform and form our lives. (“Life Skills”) Our group intention is to cultivate an atmosphere of safety, compassion, and respect for each individual’s unique experience and contribution.”
“We know you are already present to us, O God, so we ask you to enable us to be equally present to you, to each other–and to ourselves. We consent to your work in us. As we learn new practices, may we be delivered from the ‘pace, power, and priorities’ (Villodas) of our world.” (60 seconds of silence)
This is not a Bible study or a counseling session. Our time together is as much about “unlearning” as about learning, more about members sharing their experience than a leader giving insights or principles. In being heard we are helped. We change, and others are usually helped too. (This model is tested and proven in 12 step groups. The approach may be unfamiliar at first, so give it some time. It works!)
Expectations regarding other Group Members
Members of the group will come from different regions, ethnicities, ages, and religious backgrounds. Additionally, everyone is on their own timetable and journey. Don’t assume everyone shares your faith or perspective or that you can speak for them.
*Come to the group with an expectation of learning something new and helpful.
*Keep your sharing at the “I” level–make it personal (what you think or feel), not preachy (what you think others should think or feel).
*Please keep the focus on your own experience.
*Resolve to practice patience and exquisite tenderness toward others.
*If you feel judgmental or defensive when someone else shares, “turn to wonder.” For instance, “I wonder what she is feeling.”, “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself.”
*Stick to the topic. Avoid controversial comments.
*Refrain from commenting on, correcting, advising, or offering solutions to the person who is sharing. No ‘fixing.”, no “cross talk.” (Not even compliments.)
*Trust Silence. Treat silence as a member of the group. Times of silence slow down the group and give people time to reflect.
*Be sensitive to how many times you share, and for how long. We may have a large group at times. Let others have their turn.
*Hold what you hear in confidence. Help us keep this a safe space for everyone.
Specific to on-line meetings:
–Mute your microphone when you’re not sharing, even if you’re home alone!
–Please don’t make video or audio recordings of our meetings.
–Keep your background as non-distracting as possible.
Skills #14 – Enlightened Love
WFTM 3-22, 4-11
The Difficult Context for Enlightened Love
*Do you live in a time and place (a context) that makes it difficult for you to love in an enlightened way? What hindering factors below resonate with you?
“The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him.”
“If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them, you are misinformed.” Mark Twain
“Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.” George Bernard Shaw
“Americans are the best entertained and the least informed people in the world.” Neil Postman
“If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” Ronald Reagan
“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming . . . but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” Carl Sagan
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Isaac Asimov (1980)
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” Frédéric Bastiat
(2) Warnings for Those Who Would Practice Enlightened Love
*Each writer below is issuing a warning. Which one(s) seems relevant to your situation–to your life? Are you confused or offended by any of these statements?
“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’”
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain
“Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.” Yuval Noah Harari
“All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility . . . and thus in the primitive simplicity of [the people’s] minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Adolf Hitler
“Why of course the people don’t want war. . . . But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. . . . Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought along to do the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering
“Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable meaning is nothing but an instrument for the attainment of the government’s ambitious and mercenary aims, and a renunciation of human dignity, common sense, and conscience by the governed, and a slavish submission to those who hold power. That is what is really preached wherever patriotism is championed.” Leo Tolstoy
(3) What Love Looks Like
*With so much to hinder you, what can you do to succeed in practicing enlightened love? What do the following quotes suggest?
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
and look, the log is in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck
out of your brother’s eye!”
Jesus, in Mt. 7:3-5
“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw
“The temptation is powerful to close our eyes and wait for the worst to pass, but history tells us that for freedom to survive, it must be defended and that if lies are to stop, they must be exposed.” Madeleine K. Albright
“Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.” Robert F. Kennedy
“A mark of an open mind is being more committed to your curiosity than to your convictions. The goal of learning is not to shield old views against new facts. It’s to revise old views to incorporate new facts. Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend.” Adam Grant
“Challenging boundaries is not simply social rebellion. It is the catalyst of social evolution. When systems go unchallenged, they grow complacent and corrupt. Raising generation after generation of rule followers and conformists may be more convenient for society, but it inevitably leads to tyranny and, ultimately, revolution. Raising independent thinkers, conscious objectors, and peaceful activists creates a social balance that can endure. Peaceful parenting, then, by its very nature, is socially responsible because it creates the catalysts of social evolution that protect our society from the complacency and corruption that lead to tyranny and revolution.” L.R. Knost
“Social justice is LOVE applied to systems, policies and cultures.” Bernice King
(4) The Hope of Love
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. . . . always.” Mahatma Gandhi
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” Howard Zinn
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” L.R. Knost
A Closing Prayer
“It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise.” [John Paul II] Jesus, meet us in our thirst, satisfy our weary souls, keep us from settling–from compromising.
For Further Consideration (before or after our discussion)
Read these words thoughtfully. If you were leading the discussion, what would you want to talk about after reading these statements?
“We always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the lever of criticism. This is especially so in psychology, where by the nature of the material we are much more subjectively involved than in any other science. How, for example, can we become conscious of national peculiarities if we have never had the opportunity to regard our own nation from outside? Regarding it from outside means regarding it from the standpoint of another nation. To do so, we must acquire sufficient knowledge of the foreign collective psyche, and in the course of this process of assimilation we encounter all those incompatibilities which constitute the national bias and the national peculiarity. Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. I understand England only when I see where I, as a Swiss, do not ﬁt in. I understand Europe, our greatest problem, only when I see where I as a European do not ﬁt into the world. Through my acquaintance with many Americans, and my trips to and in America, I have obtained an enormous amount of insight into the European character; it has always seemed to me that there can be nothing more useful for a European than some time or another to look out at Europe from the top of a skyscraper. When I contemplated for the ﬁrst time the European spectacle from the Sahara, surrounded by a civilization which has more or less the same relationship to ours as Roman antiquity has to modem times, I became aware of how completely, even in America, I was still caught up and imprisoned in the cultural consciousness of the white man.” Carl Jung
“The contemplative life should liberate and purify the imagination which passively absorbs all kinds of things without our realizing it; liberate and purify it from the violence done by the influence of social images. There is a kind of contagion that affects the imagination unconsciously much more than we realize. It emanates from things like advertisements and from all the spurious fantasies that are thrown at us by our commercial society. These fantasies are deliberately intended to exercise a powerful effect on our conscious and subconscious minds. They are directed right at our instincts and appetites and there is no question but that they exercise a real transforming power on our whole psychic structures. The contemplative life should liberate us from that kind of pressure, which is really a form of tyranny.” Thomas Merton
WFTM (Wisdom From the Margins) is the book that we’re using for these discussions. Much of the material this week is not from the book.